The New Year provides an ideal time for most people to start new projects, or at least to start working on changing some undesirable elements of the past year. Unfortunately, many New Year’s resolutions are in the form of long lists of demands that put you under pressure to deliver with a ticking clock. You get worn out soon after.
Sticking to your New Year goals is not necessarily a matter of self discipline. According to Joseph Shrand, M.D., and Harvard Medical School psychiatry instructor, the human brain is constantly trying to balance feelings of pleasure and restraint. Rational desires, such as self-restraint, reside in the front of the brain, which is the most recently evolved section of the brain, and most vulnerable to getting overruled by natural instincts.
Pleasure, on the other hand, lives in the most primitive part of the brain that has spent eternity learning to reward the person with a satisfying dose of dopamine when the urges overpower you.
How to Successfully Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions
So, how do you empower the rational section of your brain to triumph and stick to New Year resolutions?
1. Create a plan.
A plan is intended to keep you on track and focused on your primary goal. You are less likely to make impulse purchases when shopping with a grocery list than when trying to recall the items to buy from your memory. So, rather than simply making a decision to do something, note it down somewhere and constantly remind yourself to stay accountable.
2. Break down big goals into smaller goals.
Saving $1,000 more by the end of the year seems much harder compared to saving $90 per month. The same logic applies with long-term weight loss goals, or any other objective for that matter. However, breaking down a larger goal into more manageable segments makes it easier for you to focus and stay accountable.
3. Tackle one goal at a time.
While multi-tasking seems like a smart approach to get more work done within a shorter time, using this approach with your resolutions can derail the process. It takes effort to replace bad habits with healthy ones, so it is better that you focus on one goal at a time as you build momentum and a sense of self-actualization.
Lastly, it is important that you pre-commit to increase your chances of success. This means eliminating any threats and obstacles that may keep you from reaching your goals. For instance, choosing to work in a place with no internet connection, rather than trusting yourself to not use an available network eliminates the possibility of derailment.